A boss fight is a valuable moment in many games. They serve as a way to make sure you're paying attention to the mechanics, mix the game up for some creative fun, and are often what players remember from standouts in certain genres. Furi seeks to do away with the middleman by making a twin stick shooter/hack and slash hybrid that consists of nothing but boss fights. Do these fights excite, or does the game just make me furious?
The story of Furi is a bit of a confusing thing, requiring you to piece it together from the chunks you can get. You play as the Stranger, a man who is trapped in a prison and repeatedly being tortured and killed only to come back to life. Salvation arrives in the form of a mysterious man wearing a rabbit mask who breaks your character out of prison and starts him on the road to freedom. Along the way, they must battle the guardians that have the goal of keeping him trapped there, and you'll learn bits of the Stranger's history the further you go. The game is constantly presenting the dilemma that, maybe, the mysterious Stranger doesn't quite deserve his freedom. Or maybe he does, but is the cost worth it? While Furi doesn't give much of a conclusion, the world building is interesting enough and the story kept me guessing.
Furi combines elements of both twin stick shooters and hack and slash to make something rather unique. Bosses have several "squares" of life, and each square has two bars. The first bar is the long-range battle, where you'll run around the entire arena playing like a twin stick shooter. You only actually have a few skills, and will be spending most of the fights trying to avoid enemy gunfire and hitting them during the rare moments they leave themselves open. A charged shot gives you an extra kick if you can find the time to load it, while a dash becomes an indispensable tool to swerving between bullets. Once you've hurt the boss enough you close in to attack the second health bar, leading to the more dramatic close-range battles. Here, the boss is always at a center of a small circular arena that you can't leave, and you must dodge and parry their attacks until you get an opening to hit them. There's no combos to learn or weapons to switch to, Furi is simply about dodging until you can find an opportunity. Win this part and you get restored to full health and the boss loses a square of health. Get killed, and the boss recovers all health for the square they're currently on, while you lose a square of your own.
It simple, but Furi does so much with so little. Perfecting the zig-zag dodge through a rain of bullets is a highly challenging thing to do, and every little success comes with a real sense of accomplishment. Yet, you have to work for those moments of achievement and Furi is not content with just letting you have them easily. A boss may seem like a breeze one moment, then he suddenly makes five clones of himself and you're ducking and weaving between poisonous bullets. The Stranger does have a very important skill to assist him in combat, and that is called Punishment. If you manage to hit a boss with a charged sword strike, or perfectly parry one of their attacks, then you'll put them in a stunned state for a few moments. Hit them in this state and you'll use Punishment, a cinematic multi-hit attack that can't be blocked and does a ton of damage to enemies.
Each boss is unique, bringing in new elements to keep you on your toes. A fight against a sniper has you taking cover to avoid her shots as you keep trying to use her aiming laser to hunt her down and find her. Another boss only requires one hit to kill, but he surrounds himself in shields that reflect your bullets back at you and stands on top of columns that need to be knocked down to hit him. One boss does away with the long-range portion of the battle, instead just being a fast-paced melee fight. One interesting boss fight is a chase scene, as instead of fighting the boss I'd have to chase her while using the dash to move to platforms and pass through attacks. No two bosses are alike, and there was a certain level of excitement as I walked to the next boss and tried to guess what their gimmick was between the environment and the stories I was being told.
As nice as this time was, it's also the one thing that bugged me about Furi. You don't do anything in the time between bosses except walk slowly to the next boss fight while the Rabbit-Masked Man gives you a brief overview of the upcoming bosses' history with the Stranger. The camera angles rapidly shift during these parts, and I was often either losing the Stranger's position or having to awkwardly figure out a new way to point the left stick to walk. Eventually, I found out that if I pressed the X button during these parts, then the Stranger would just automatically walk to where he needed to go, so at that point, the issue was negated, and I was able to sit back and just enjoy the visuals and soundtrack.
Speaking of which, oh boy did I enjoy the visuals and soundtrack. Furi is a striking game with a lovely art style that really makes it stand out. Each of these walking segments would become visual treats, and the sweeping camera angles often added to this to make sure I got the best views possible. In combat, the frantic fights would continue to visually impress, the sheer number of projectiles on the screen leading to a neon-soaked treat while the Stranger's attacks would have me following all the expertly crafted animations with glee. Then there's the soundtrack, and I'm just going to go ahead and call it the best soundtrack in 2016 so far. Featuring artists like Carpenter Brut, Danger, The Toxic Avenger, Lorn, Scattle, Waveshaper, and Kn1ght, the soundtrack is always perfectly on-point. The boss themes are intense while the walking scenes have fitting atmospheric melodies. Furi is so aware as to how good its soundtrack is that every time you pause the game it tells you which artist composed the song you are currently hearing. This is one that's going to be ending up both on my computer and iPod so I can keep listening to it even when I'm done with Furi.
Furi's love of boss fights combined with its simple yet effective mechanics, interesting story, lovely visuals, and fantastic soundtrack leads to what is easily my favorite release of 2016 so far. I was pretty excited going in, and watching the game meet each of my expectations would prove to be a real treat. The challenge may not be for everyone, but those with even a vague interest in the idea will probably find Furi to be a game they'll be thinking about for a long time.
Furi was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on Steam.
Furi is one of the most impressive releases of 2016, raising the bar for several genres just a little bit higher. The gameplay is tight, the soundtrack is pumping, and every boss has such an amazingly unique flair. If you have Ps+ then you're going to be treated to one of the best 'straight to PS+' releases since Rocket League, and if you don't then the game is well worth every penny.